Jeremy Lin’s overzealous critics enjoy harping on the amount of undeserved praise he has gotten to date, but they tend to ignore their own culpability in making the 24-year-old such a polarizing figure.
For reasons unknown to most rational people who can separate the myth of Linsanity from the reality of Jeremy Lin, his critics seem to relish painting him as the most overrated player in the league. Back when people still remembered who Tim Tebow was, he was often compared to Lin – despite the latter being far more skilled at his craft than the former.
These days, a strange meme has sprung up from the bottom of the internet: Patrick Beverley is a better player than Lin. He is a better fit in the starting lineup than Lin and, thus, he is the better overall player.
Let’s start off by pointing out the obvious: Yes, Beverley is a better fit for next year’s Houston Rockets starting lineup than Lin. No, that doesn’t make him the better player. The two things are in no way intertwined.
The reason why Beverley is a better fit for Houston’s starting lineup, in light of Dwight Howard coming on board, is because he is a plug-in player. You plug him into the starting five, let him hustle on defense and then ask him to stand on the outside and wait for an inevitable drive-and-dish on offense. Unlike Lin, he doesn’t need the ball because of a.) who he is, b.) the amount of money he makes and c.) his skills. That last bit is important – the guy wouldn’t know what to do with the ball even if you gave it to him more frequently.
None of that makes him a better player, though.
If you plugged Kobe Bryant into Ray Allen’s place with the old Boston Celtics, it would be a worse fit because Paul Pierce/Kobe would be redundant. A similar dynamic is at work with James Harden/Lin. Allen was a better fit for that Boston team than Kobe would’ve been, obviously, but nobody would make the case that Allen is a better player than Kobe.
If you compare Lin’s numbers to Beverley’s numbers, you get a pretty clear picture regarding who is better.
Lin averaged 13.4 points, 6.1 assists and 2.9 turnovers in 32 minutes per game last year. Beverley averaged 5.6 points, 2.9 assists and 1.1 turnovers in 17 minutes per game last year.
Because of the minutes/games disparity between these two, merely comparing Lin’s regular season totals with Beverley’s is unfair. So let’s compare Lin’s regular season totals with Beverley’s playoff totals.
Lin Regular Season Averages: 13.4 points, 6.1 assists and 2.9 turnovers in 32 minutes per game
Beverley’s Playoff Averages: 11.8 points, 2.8 assists and 1 turnover in 33 minutes per game.
And it goes without saying that Beverley’s stat sheet doesn’t note his most important contribution to the 2012-13 Rockets – injuring Russell Westbrook in the most ridiculous way imaginable.
Based on the numbers -- and 36 minute totals from the regular season shouldn’t be used here because it’s impossible to extrapolate anything legitimate from them in this particular case -- it’s clear that no matter how you cut it, Lin is the better player. He may not be the ideal fit to play beside Harden, but even though he was playing out of position (not literally, but based on the gameplan) and was continuously forced out of his comfort zone on offense, he still put up consistently better numbers than Beverley.
Fit is important. Chemistry is vital to a team’s success. Nobody is denying either of those things. Similarly, nobody is disputing that, based on the fact that the Rockets need to run their offense through Harden, Beverley is the wiser choice for the starting lineup – but none of that should be misconstrued as anything other than what it is. It’s a scenario which makes Beverley the more natural piece given the makeup of a particular roster, not a better overall player than Lin.
The Rockets could replace Beverley fairly easily. The same can't be said for replacing Lin.